I know a great many people that post on Facebook every time they cook something amazing, go to the gym, get an A
on their test (Muggins here), posted a blog entry (and again), how many weeks its been since they’ve stopped smoking, post on their new diet – and so on.
I also know a great deal of people who abhor this kind of social network conduct. They don’t care that so and so spent an hour running on the treadmill, or that Janey managed to create a 100% vegan Thanksgiving feast that everyone enjoyed, or that Billy is five days in to a nicotine- and caffeine-free life.
Why do we/they do it?
It’s all an interactive journal.
The art of keeping a diary began with Samuel Pepys, a writer from the Restoration Era of Britain (17th century). It was after his model that – for those of us that keep personal journals – is commonly used today.
“The diary begins at a calendrical turning point, and on a kind of double bet: that the coming time would bring changes worth writing up, both in the life of the diarist and in the history of the state.” – Masters of British Literature: Volume A, p.1041
Pepys was often involved in long-lasting project, and his diary was a project which lasted nine years. He began it to track his “uprise”, starting fairly poor and eventually rising to be “the ruler of the Royal Navy”.
The psychology of a journal is that by recording daily activities, one can be aware of what they are or aren’t doing. What should be happening, instead of berating the self for messing up on their goal or achievement (me again), one simply makes aware of the times they did do what they were meaning to do.
“Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, told his students: ‘If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit…[instead] count the days when you were not angry: ‘I used to be angry every day, then every other day: next every two, next every three days!’ and if you succeed in passing thirty days, sacrifice to the Gods in thanksgiving.'” – See more at: PoW The journal, from Marcus Aurelius to Bridget Jones
Aleister Crowley writes on something similar in his fictional book, Diary of a Drug Fiend, when occult practitioner, King Lamas sets out to help the two main characters that have fallen into a tragic cocaine and heroin addiction in 1920, when it became highly illegal. He allowed them access to whatever they wanted, but only requested that each time they indulged, they mark it on the calendar. There would be no scolding, no “punishment” from him. Seeing as it was a couple, each marking on the same calendar, though with separate tallies, they would become annoyed to see how well the other was doing, or find the tallies as a mockery to themselves.
This was a journal, and the simple act of seeing how much they were doing something, and having to recording prompted them to less and less use.
Nearly 100 years later, we might not be making tallies on a calendar (or maybe we are), but we have social networking – which not only works towards marking how often we are or are not doing something, but also lends the hand of social support from the people we care about and those that care about us. It’s like an AA meeting for everything – you share your experience and receive support.
Does it really help? I can’t say. However, I can just remind those that become annoyed at the constant updates of food and exercise and so on, that your friends are trying to better themselves. Be happy that they’re doing so. One day you’ll be doing the same (if you’re not already), and on some level will want the same support they’re asking of you.